ConDev Director Ed Price was recently interviewed regarding World Coffee Research (WCR)’s plans to establish a coffee research center in El Salvador. Dr. Price is a member of the WCR Board of Directors. The Center on Conflict and Development conducts additional research and programs to improve food security and coffee-related initiatives in conflict areas as well, with the ultimate objective of giving producers and farmers in conflict-prone regions the tools to cultivate their own prosperity through agriculture.

Original article from La Prensa Gráfica available here (in Spanish).

Dr. Price, El Salvador WCR Coffee Research Center

“Conducting Research Is As Important As Knowing How to Share It…”

A team of scientists will establish a coffee research center in El Salvador. Edwin Price explains what it will take for the initiative to succeed.

The coffee industry, which served as the beating heart of the Salvadorean economy in the past, encountered one of its most difficult tests: four consecutive crops with ever-dwindling yields…but rather than giving up, coffee sector representatives in the country have taken a step forward and collaborated to bring a research center that will work for all of Centroamerica in the years to come.

In 2016, World Coffee Research Research (WCR) will install a worksite to begin a diversity of projects. This is a long-term commitment. Edwin Price, a member of the WCR Board of Directors, details how El Salvador can overcome its coffee crisis using science.

Why did WCR choose El Salvador for its coffee research center?

El Salvador was selected based on the history we share with researchers and entrepreneurs there; we already have close ties and partners in-country. Besides, we needed a place in the region where we could come in from Texas, and this location was convenient. The region was famous in the past for its coffee production, but the number one reason is that members of the industry here were extremely receptive. They told us they would facilitate the creation of experiment stations, and their responsiveness was key.

What project will WCR start with? Will it be related to developing resistance to coffee rust?

That project, in particular, receives assistance from USAID and has already been going on for two years. The issue of rust is perhaps the first project that WCR conducted here [in El Salvador], but now that the program is officially established—I mean, the (regional) offices of WCR—there are new projects such as developing new varieties, promoting these varieties among farmers, certifying varieties, and so forth.

And all that will be available to the rest of the region?

Yes, anyone can acquire the information and the varieties. They are for producers here and anywhere in Central America, and even outside the region. The problem is the rate of growth: We are just getting started, and we only have one pilot for testing and three nurseries for releasing varieties.

This is a long-term endeavor. So what is the objective moving forward?

The main objective is to develop greater flexibility in the coffee plants to match the conditions under which they will produce while maintaining productivity and quality. If we are able to build this flexibility and robustness into the plants’ genetics, it will help make them more resilient to disease as well as climate change. The new varieties will be key to maintaining productivity and quality in the coming decades.

You already know what caused the outbreak of the crisis in the coffee industry in 2011: rust came, and drought. What do you think we can do to revitalize the industry once again?

You guys have had some bad luck. Not only did rust come, but almost immediately thereafter came the droughts, which worsened everything. Coming from that, however, we must plant new varieties that can compete in this type of environment.

The producers ask for financing time and time again. What have you observed in other countries concerning this situation?

There are many resources so assist them. The Salvadorean government has provided plants—new resistant varieties; but as to what other countries are doing: I believe that research is the key. We need to do research not only to adapt the technology to El Salvador, but once we know the answers, we need to have the capacity to take this information to the producer so that he or she can benefit from it. Conducting research is as important as knowing how to share it through agricultural extension.

What type of support from the government would be appropriate for WCR to succeed here in El Salvador?

We are a private organization. We believe that we can carry out research with funds from the private sector. Now, it’s up to the government to use this information and take it to the producer, and for all I know, there are already extension workers here. The task of the government is to support the producers and ensure quality. For example, when a producer buys seeds, the government needs to have the skills and capacity to ensure that that variety is the one the producer thinks it is. That is the principal responsibility of the government: quality certification.